Internal & external strength

In the Tai Chi Classics – the ancient writings of Tai Chi – is states that all problems of posture and movement can be traced to an incorrect use of the legs. I am now of the conviction that this wisdom applies to all problems: physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, social, external and internal.

Someone told me recently that our first semi-conscious act as human beings is to straighten the legs to thrust ourselves out of the womb, and you can see clearly in the baby that everytime it is held upright and its feet touch a surface it forcefully straightens its legs as if to leap upwards. Our instincts have conditioned us to automatically straighten the legs and lock the knees, hips and ankles. This conditioning leads us down the path of external strength – basically muscular strength – where the body becomes expert at moving itself as an independent object in space. It is this feeling of independent power that becomes ego. With external strength chemical energy is transformed to mechanical energy in the muscles which is then transformed into either kinetic or potential energy as our body moves or becomes still. This is the energy we learn about at school in our science lessons.

The first stage in Tai Chi – a stage that literally takes decades to complete – is to start using the legs differently. Instead of straightening the legs every time we feel a hard surface under our feet, we bend them, not in order to retreat from that hard surface but to melt into it and transform it. This is a special bending that requires a constant releasing in the joints of the legs: sacro-iliacs, hips, knees, ankles, toes, allowing energy to flow across those joints and through the legs. This is the energy of central equilibrium: an energy that flows when we start to relax into things and allow the forces operating upon us into our bodies to find their natural equilibrium (balance) there. This is internal strength – the cleansing and reconditioning that happens when energy flows through flesh, bone, and above all: mind.

Internal strength begins to develop when we learn to relax into things in order to allow them into ourselves. External strength develops when we interact with the world non-communicatively: forcefully and insensitively, neither entering nor being entered – as though we were independent enough of that world to control and manipulate it. We obviously need a degree of external strength, at least until we have developed a significant reservoir of internal strength, otherwise we couldn't function around other people. But we must also strive to distinguish between the two: to become aware of when we use external strength, and then investigate ways of softening that strength to make it more internal. This softening may start in the mind, but we must then take it into the body – into the legs, otherwise we have knowing but no understanding.

One must talk about everything according to its nature,
how it comes to be and how it grows.

Herakleitos (trans. Guy Davenport)

Workshop in London the day after Boxing Day - this Saturday.


Suffice it to say, I write to know who I am.

Ron Silliman


Always relax but never collapse.



To proceed meaningfully I must believe that here is where I need to be and here is where the world needs me to be, and I must believe that I am here to engage my spirit with everything in my vicinity to make things better. Energetically every engagement has a place for me. Assuming I am open enough to be reasonably clear of the inward spiraling congestion of ego, then this place is best inside my own body. When I empty of self then I can fill with all else, and I become supremely responsible, and responsive: the heart becomes hearth and home to all there is. That is ultimately all I am and all I can be: a house of and for connexion.


Some London clouds for those elsewhere (from Monica).
The strength (energy) to get things done and the power (spirit) to transform.

Some blue sky for those in colder climes.


Out of my mind.
The meeting edge of man and the world is also his cutting edge. If man is active, it is exactly here where experience comes in that it is delivered back, and if he stays fresh at the coming in he will be fresh at his going out. If he does not, all that he does inside his house is stale, more and more stale as he is less and less acute at the door. And his door is where he is responsible to more than himself.

Charles Olson


To strip the present moment of both its momentum and its urgency, allowing it to ring and resonate like a buddha-bell, clearing both the air and the mind.



I suspect that thinking started all those thousands of years ago when we lost faith – when we started to sense problems that required solution rather than simply being a part of the world in the world; when our love – our willingness to engage and allow the world into our bodies – lost its ferocity and centrality and became a passive and occasional luxury. Since then of course the thinking mind has become so dominant that it spends almost all our conscious time and energy not only solving problems but creating those problems in the first place. Thinking is an idle and largely unnecessary occupation.



In an energetic system (which we become when we start to relax) even the tiniest physical movements become palpable because all movements have energetic extension: all movements are along infinitely extending flows of energy, even if such a flow is into or out of itself.


The more I teach the more I see that peoples' fundamental problem is that they don't use their legs properly. The legs should connect the heart to the Earth rather than thrust the heart up and away from the Earth. Connexion isn't just a bond, it is a communication.



A fearful life is one based on the conviction that I have, or that I am, an independent autonomous self. Courageous work is therefore anything that undermines or erodes this conviction.



Posture will improve only if we manage to change the way we see ourselves – how we feel about ourselves – how we relate to our body. On those odd occasions when we hit good posture we must be sensitive to how that shifts our reality, and we must yearn for that new reality, like the good students we are, or hope to be. These are the glimmers – the beacons – that lure us onwards.


People often ask me what's the difference between Tai Chi and Chi Kung. Basically Chi Kung is about energy and Tai Chi is about connexion.


Musica universalis

I'm beginning to feel that that deeply relaxed meditative state comes when the natural rhythms in my body, particularly those of the nerves, the heart, the breath and the craniosacral system harmonize, in the sense that each adjusts to become an overtone of a deeper implied fundamental. In this sense we tune to a deeper aspect of self and a deeper aspect of existence than any one of those rhythms can give us access to.